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Thursday, December 18, 2014

What to Do Before the Freeze Comes

We already had a taste of freezing weather back in November in some parts of the Valley. Unless this is a very unusual winter, more is coming. In Las Vegas we can expect nighttime temperatures to drop into the mid to high teens degrees F (-10C).

  • Rarely does the soil freeze more than a couple of inches deep. 
  • The coldest time is just before sunrise. 
  • Clear, cloudless nights will be more likely to give us freezing weather. 
  • If you think it might freeze, go outside at night and see if the night sky is clear (cloudless).
  • If you cover plants at night, uncover them the next day as soon as the temperatures are no longer freezing.
  • Water the day it may freeze or make sure the soil is wet going into freezing temperatures.

Check weather forecasts. Look for future minimum temperatures AND WIND!!!

I like Weather Underground for the wind reason and you can see it here and bookmark it.

Protect from the wind. Remember, cold is bad enough but when it is combined with wind it will be much more damaging. Protect anything of value or that can freeze and cause damage by first blocking the wind. This can be as simple as throwing a light blanket over a tender plant or a thick blanket around pipes that could freeze.

Wrap pipes totally. Remember that metal freezes quicker than plastic. Plastic pipes will freeze but any metal fittings exposed to the wind will freeze more quickly and be more expensive to replace. It is always best to wrap exposed pipes with insulation starting a couple of inches below ground. Wrap ALL exposed metal parts above ground. Leave nothing exposed to the wind.

Drain pipes. If the pipe and metal components don't contain any water, they are less likely to be damaged when there is a freeze. Drain pipes by opening irrigation valves after you shut off the water to your irrigation system. Shut off the water to the valves and loosen the bleed screw on top of the valve or loosen the solenoid 1 1/2  turns (not all the way!), enough so water squirts out from the solenoid or bleed screw.

Protect Tender Plants. A good resource on protecting plants from winter cold was published by the University of Arizona. You can find it here.

Plants that you should consider protecting at the first sign of a freeze include: limes, lemons (not Meyers), and citron, bougainvillea, many hibiscus, pygmy date palm, plants that are flowering. Don't cover plants with plastic. The cold plastic touching the leaves can damage them.

Mulch. Put a 3 to 4 inch layer on top of the soil surrounding the plants during the day when the soil is warm. Mulch helps trap soil heat and keep it from freezing. Plants that might freeze to the ground (Lantana) will have a couple of inches of stems protected from the cold and wind with a mulch.

Container Plants. Container plants should be moved into the garage or the plant+container should be covered all the way to the ground. Remove the cover when temperatures are no longer freezing.

Lawns. If the lawn has frost or is frozen, DON'T WALK ON IT. Walking on frozen grass will damage the blades and leave footrpints due to the damage.

If damage does occur..... do not prune out the damage until all cold weather has passed.


  1. I heard it helps if you wrap them in Christmas tree lights.

    1. You know how that goes. There are a lot of “depends” when that is said. Depends on what the temperature is. Depends if there is a wind or not. Depends on the type of lights and how much heat they give off. Depends on the number of lights. Depends on how close the trees are to the lights and if the lights burn the tree instead. Depends on how long freezing temperature lasts….

  2. I lived in San Antonio, TX. zone 9 A, I heard that if you wrapped it around
    with Christmas tree lights it will prevent from freezing ?